Four years ago I bought a road racing bike from a renowned manufacturer. Recently, the steering behaviour became suddenly very weak and I had great difficulties in not falling. Looking for the cause of the "weak steering behaviour“, I removed the bar tape and made a dramatic finding: The bike was as new, but of the handlebar tube a big section was missing - it had simply rusted away! It is, of course, stipulated by the handlebar manufacturer to replace the handlebars at regular intervals. But is it an acceptable risk to break your neck after four years only?
Reply by Dirk Zedler, TOUR technology expert and bicycle expert
According to my experience, it is an exception that the condition of handlebars deteriorate so dramatically as in this case. Humidity and salt originating from hand sweat promote handlebar corrosion, often sweat is dropping down your head.
Humidity and salt remain stored in bar tapes for quite a long time - nearly ideal preconditions to destroy the metal underneath. Whether or not this will actually happen strongly depends on the composition of the sweat. Some riders never experience such kind of damage, others have to deal with damaged handlebars or entire bicycles. As this is not foreseeable, it is recommended to wash the bar tape and even the entire road racing bike with plenty of clear water by adding, if necessary, a little cleaning agent as degreaser. It is important to do the cleaning also in summer, when the bike is not much soiled. Let the bike dry thoroughly afterwards and never store it in a damp, warm room. Moreover, it is advisable to change the bar tape once a year. This removes harmful salts and offers the chance to detect corrosion at an early stage.